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Windows XP creates certification confusion

As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows XP, IT pros are facing complicated choices about their MCP and MCSE certification plans. Many are frustrated by Microsoft's rapid product releases and the accompanying changes to its cert programs.


With Windows XP on the OS horizon and Windows 2000 still fresh in the market, many administrators face a certification dilemma as they debate where their money and time can best be spent. Factor in the pending expiration of older NT 4.0 MCSE certifications, and the entire Microsoft certification process becomes even cloudier.

In his recent article "Windows XP shakes up Microsoft certification," Erik Eckel recommended that administrators continue to develop a good foundation in Win2K and worry about XP later. However, comments from many TechRepublic members indicate that some are quite frustrated and confused by the Microsoft certification program. This article highlights some member opinions about the latest certification news from Redmond.

Slow down, Microsoft
While no one disputes the need to keep up to date with new products and advances in the dynamic IT field, it’s the rapidity of Microsoft’s new releases that bothers many IT pros. TechRepublic member Charles Rankin believes that Microsoft, in an effort to dictate the market, is “killing” NT 4.0 despite the operating system’s presence on numerous networks. Instead of allowing an OS and its certification to fade away on their own, he believes that Microsoft hastens their demise by aggressively pushing new products.

“The certs will die a natural death. Anyone that does not remain current with the OS, that is…the dominant OS, will lose his or her use in the IT field.”

Kenny Felton also believes that Microsoft is far too quick with its product releases and certification offerings.

“Adding XP to Win 2K exams before it is even out yet is like an inward spiral. The more you get into this certification thing, the faster you start spinning. When do the exams stop and [when does] the real learning in the field begin?”

Questioning the value of certification
Both Kenny and member Beyond hinted at the value of “real world” learning as opposed to Microsoft-issued certifications. Instead of grappling with the headaches of certifying for Win 2K and XP, many members are vowing to forego further certifications. Northwind believes that certifications don’t carry the clout that Microsoft appears to associate with them.

“If you are in the industry, you will keep current naturally by dealing with those new issues as they come up….You will learn what you need to know by doing in the industry—not by recertifying on Redmond’s whims.”

To date, member mslatin has spent a little more than $20,000 on certifications in his career. After reading the details of Microsoft’s plans to merge XP certification questions with Win 2K, he’s concentrating on learning UNIX and Cisco.

“No one ever looked at or asked me to show my certifications. I just don’t see the need to support MS every time they come out with a new product.”

Justin Kidd, a network engineer in Austin, TX, isn’t too worried about Microsoft’s plans. Kidd has no intentions of switching his Win 2K network to XP just because Microsoft releases it out into the market. He also maintains NT 4 and 3.51 for different functions and doesn’t intend to replace those any time soon.

“If you’re good at what you do, the cert process as it stands now is pointless. Prove yourself through helping and not through initials [of a certification].”

Reclassifying certifications
If Microsoft continues to quickly release products and further complicate certifications, Sean Patterson believes that better classification of the certifications might be in order.

“All Microsoft would need to do is be more specific when assigning titles to their certifications [by] specifically including the software name in the MCSE title.”

Network administrator Jim Helm also called for more specific certification names to benefit people who have already earned certifications.

“It allows for people to update to the new products as well as allowing those who do not want to bother keeping current to continue with their present status.”
Are you going to continue with your Microsoft certifications? Will you go for Win2K and XP together? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.

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